Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

From flowers to cayenne peppers, a birthday celebration October 1, 2021

A beautiful birthday bouquet from my eldest daughter and her family. Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo 2021.

I RECENTLY CELEBRATED a milestone birthday and I’ve never been happier to turn another year older. Gone is my absurdly high monthly health insurance premium of $1,245 (with a $4,250 deductible), replaced by affordable (and usable) Medicare coverage. And now I’m also eligible for the Pfizer booster vaccine. Yeah. Here’s to turning sixty-five.

Walking through the prairie at River Bend toward the woods. Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo 2021.

I didn’t celebrate my birthday with great fanfare or the usual birthday treat of dining out. (Even though vaccinated, I continue to be cautious and careful in these days of COVID-19.) Rather, Randy and I hiked across the prairie and woods at River Bend Nature Center, a treasured place to connect with nature in Faribault.

Omelet and hashbrowns, along with watermelon from the Faribault Farmers’ Market, comprised my birthday brunch. Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo 2021.

Afterwards, I enjoyed a delicious brunch prepared by Randy. We dined al fresco on our patio at a card table draped in one of my many vintage tablecloths.

Then, in the afternoon, we spent time with our eldest daughter, her husband and our precious grandchildren at their home. I appreciated the grilled burger and vegetables with my favorite, cheesecake, for dessert. A wonderful way to celebrate.

The only thing that would have made my birthday even better would have been the presence of our second daughter, her husband and our son. But they called from southeastern Wisconsin and northwestern Indiana and that brought me joy.

Thank you to those who sent cards, this one from my second daughter and her husband. Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo 2021.

Some friends and extended family also texted wishes. I got greeting cards, too.

Gladioli from The 3 Glad Girls. Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo 2021.

And flowers. Randy purchased a clutch of gladioli at the Faribault Farmers’ Market. And when he presented them to me with a “Happy birthday!” while I was chatting with Andy Webster of MEG’S Edible Landscapes, Andy took note. “It’s your birthday?” he asked.

“Well, not today, but tomorrow,” I told him.

Smoked cayenne peppers gifted to me by Andy of MEG’S Edible Landscapes. Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo 2021.

Then he scooped a baggie of smoked cayenne peppers from the table. “Happy birthday!” Andy said with a smile. Now if that wasn’t the sweetest gesture from a young man who lives on his dream rural acreage in the Sogn Valley, runs his business and is working on a horticulture degree from Oregon University.

Andy’s genuine passion for MEG’S Edible Landscapes showed in his pitch and his personality. He is a genuinely warm and engaging person. To summarize, Andy sells a mobile system for growing vegetables like peppers, basil, beans, lettuce, carrots and more in bags that you can easily pick up and move. It’s ideal, he said, for someone like me without garden space. If enthusiasm and knowledge make for business success, then Andy is certain to succeed.

His unexpected birthday gift of those smoked cayenne peppers touched me in a way that resonated deeply. In these challenging times, I needed that affirmation of an unexpected act of kindness. What a great way to begin my next year of life.

© Copyright 2021 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

An afternoon at the Sogn Valley Craft Fair October 4, 2014

NEARLY THREE DOZEN ARTISTS ring the farmyard, a grove of trees sheltering their tents on an autumn day that bites with a brisk wind.

Artists shelter in tents.

Artists shelter in tents.

Leaves litter the grass. Clouds break away into sunshine. Caps clamp heads. Hands shove deep into warm pockets.

Hand blown glass by Steve Claypatch of Ascension Art, Minneapolis.

Hand blown glass by Steve Claypatch of Ascension Art, Minneapolis.

And folks meander, pausing to admire the art that has drawn a crowd into the Sogn Valley southwest of Cannon Falls for the annual Sogn Valley Craft Fair.

Julie Crabtree creates fabulous mixed media modern embroidery fiber art.

Julie Crabtree creates fabulous mixed media modern embroidery fiber art.

The work of Renee Nation, fiber artist and felt maker.

The work of Renee Nation, fiber artist and felt maker.

Colleen Riley of Eureka Pots was selling this garden art among other soda fired ceramics.

Colleen Riley of Eureka Pots sells this garden art among other soda fired ceramics.

Here jurored artists vend their creations—photos, pottery, fiber art, jewelry, woodcarvings, prints and much more.

Homestead apiaries sells honey, beeswax candles and more.

Homestead apiaries vends honey, beeswax candles and more.

Here beekeepers sell honey and beeswax candles.

A welcoming vendor sold baked goods, preserves and more at Ruthie's Kitchen while the baker returned home, just down the road, to bake buns for Sunday's fair.

A welcoming vendor sold baked goods, preserves and more at Ruthie’s Kitchen while the baker returned home, just down the road, to bake buns for Sunday’s fair.

A blueberry tart from Ruthie's Kitchen.

A blueberry tart from Ruthie’s Kitchen.

Tenders of the earth peddle pumpkins and apples. Baked and preserved goods draw those hungry for a taste of Grandma’s kitchen.

Local band, Muchos Machos, entertains.

Local band, Muchos Machos, entertains.

Musicians strum and croon.

Dogs are welcome.

Dogs are welcome.

Dogs, accompanying their owners, are a reminder of farm dogs that once roamed this rural place in the shadows of looming silos.

An overview of the craft fair.

An overview of the craft fair.

There is something comforting and peaceful about being here among artists in a land where hardworking Norwegian immigrants once settled. In this place, this Sogn Valley.

Parked in the parking area along the farm drive.

Parked along the farm drive.

FYI: The Sogn Valley Craft Fair continues from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. Sunday, October 5. Parking and admission are free. Click here for more information.

BONUS PHOTOS:

Kerry Brooks Pottery from Dock 6 Pottery, Minneapolis.

Kerry Brooks Pottery from Dock 6 Pottery, Minneapolis.

The art of Renee Nation, fiber artist/felt maker.

The art of Renee Nation, fiber artist/felt maker.

This Sogn Valley farm site presents a beautiful rural setting for the craft fair.

This Sogn Valley farm site presents a beautiful rural setting for the craft fair.

Mariella TerBeest-Schladweiler of Preston has been crafting handbags at Helen's Daughters Handbags since 1989.

Mariella TerBeest-Schladweiler of Preston has been crafting handbags at Helen’s Daughters Handbags since 1989.

Richard Stephens of Super Session Press shows a block and print he crated.

Richard Stephens of Super Session Press shows a block and print he crated.

Vibrant zinnias at the Homestead apiaries stand.

Vibrant zinnias at the Homestead apiaries stand.

A carving by Bob Oates of Sogn Valley Woodcarving.

A carving by Bob Oates of Sogn Valley Woodcarving.

The pottery shed of Dawn Makarios who hosts the Sogn Valley Craft Fair.

The pottery shed of Dawn Makarios (left) who hosts the Sogn Valley Craft Fair.

A door inside the pottery shed.

A door inside the pottery shed.

An example of the pottery Dawn Makarios creates.

An example of the pottery Dawn Makarios creates.

Bring your appetite. There are food vendors on-site.

Bring your appetite. There are food vendors on-site.

© Copyright 2014 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Alpacas in Sogn Valley October 9, 2011

An alpaca outside the craft barn at Sogn Valley Alpacas & Crafts.

I DREW MY HAND across the scarves, stroking the silky, kitten-soft spun fiber of the alpacas.

Hats. Scarves. Prayer shawls. Afghans. Rugs. Clothing. Some tucked inside the small-scale barn shed that mimics the real barn a stone’s throw away. Other merchandise is draped across tables and clothes-drying racks outside, near the penned camel-hued alpaca that chose to ignore me for the most part.

Welcome to Sogn Valley Alpacas & Crafts along Goodhue County 14 Boulevard, rural Cannon Falls, a spur-of-the-moment stop on a recent drive to view the fall colors.

Jayne and R.J. Boersma's Sogn Valley Alpacas & Crafts near Cannon Falls.

Scarves and hats, close-up, and prayer shawls in the background displayed outside.

Silky soft clothing hanging inside the craft barn.

My husband and I missed the fleece demo at 1 p.m., the spinning wheel demo inside and the alpaca farm tour, unless, of course, it was self-guided.

We, in fact, missed any human contact. Not a soul was to be seen except for alpacas and chickens scratching and flapping too close for my fear-of-chickens comfort.

I checked out the merchandise, unsuccessfully tried to coax the elusive alpaca into posing prettily for a photo, side-stepped chicken poop, considered photographing pumpkins and squash splayed out on a picnic table, and then snapped one final photo of an “AGRICULTURE KEEPS AMERICA GROWING” sign before hopping into the car.

The sign supporting agriculture on the side of a shed at the alpaca farm.

© Copyright 2011 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

A Sunday drive to view the fall colors in Sogn Valley October 4, 2011

A colorful hillside in the Sogn Valley area of southeastern Minnesota.

MINNESOTANS, THIS is your week.

Get outside. View the fall colors. Experience rural Minnesota at the height of harvest. This could be our best week, weather-wise, until next spring. Not that I’m trying to forecast gray skies and cold and that dreaded word, “snow,” but I’ve lived here long enough—55 years—to realize you should “make hay while the sun shines.”

I took my own advice on Sunday when the husband and I went on a fall color drive to the historic agricultural Sogn Valley area of quaint farms and wooded, rolling hills in northwestern Goodhue County.

We originally planned to paint a bedroom ceiling Sunday afternoon. But then, when a friend asked if the ceiling needed to be painted that day, we decided the project could wait. The afternoon was too beautiful to spend indoors with our eyes focused toward a ceiling instead of upward toward clear blue skies accented by the changing leaves of autumn.

So, just to offer you some visual encouragement to do a fall color drive or go for a walk this week, here are some photos I snapped on that Sunday drive.

We followed this gravel road, 20th Avenue, between Goodhue County Road 9 and Vang Lutheran Church.

Along 20th Avenue, I spotted these picturesque farm buildings.

I photographed Vang Lutheran Church across the cornfield west of the Potpourri Mill Log Cabin 10 minutes north of Kenyon or 45 minutes south of the Twin Cities.

An autumn-themed setting greets shoppers at the seasonal Harvest Thyme Craft Show at the Potpourri Mill Log Cabin, 2290 Goodhue County 49 Boulevard, Dennison. Remaining weekend show hours are 10 a.m. - 6 p.m. October 8-9 and October 15 - 16.

We were driving westbound on Goodhue County Road 9 toward Sogn.

You'll see lots of old barns, like this one along 20th Avenue, in this historic agricultural region.

Farmers are in the fields harvesting corn (pictured here) and soybeans.

The Sogn Valley area offers scenic fall color viewing in a rural landscape with little traffic. To truly experience the region, turn off the highway onto back gravel roads. Have a plat book handy and a navigator with a good sense of direction, which would not be me.

CHECK BACK FOR more photos from this autumn drive and for a post on Nerstrand Big Woods State Park, a popular fall color destination. The park parking lot was overflowing on Sunday. Colors were spectacular.

© Copyright 2011 Audrey Kletscher Helbling